Think About Your Approach to Social Media: Be A Person

In our previous post, Executing Your Social Computing Strategy, we discussed starting to execute your social media strategy. But first, you need to determine how you’re going to approach social media. This post takes a look at some considerations and tactics for approaching social media.

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Social Media Approach

The first rule, the title of our books, and the most important tenet in your social media approach is simple to say, but hard for many enterprises to actually do:

Be a Person

This means many things, but in general, people prefer relationships with people, not organ­izations, not brands, and certainly not with marketers. And it is called social media, after all.

Let your people speak; speak as yourself, as a real person.

Not a fake person, as in the ill-fated Wal-Marting Across America campaign[1] way back in 2006 (Wal-Mart is an anchor tenant in our Social Media Hall of Shame).

Wal-Marting Across America purported to be a blog about a couple’s journey across America in an RV, during which they encountered many Wal-Marts along the way. The blog was exposed as a Wal-Mart marketing gimmick, one that is called sock-puppetry.

Both Wal-Mart and famous marketing house Edelman took a hit due to the duplicity. They forgot the first rule: Be a Person, not a Brand.

Interestingly, the campaign was in direct violation of the Word of Mouth Marketing Association’s Code of Ethics,[2] which Edelman helped create, and whose major tenets are:

Word of Mouth Marketing Association’s Code of Ethics

Trust Promote an environment of trust between the consumer and marketer.
Integrity Comply with the requirements of applicable laws, regulations, and rules concerning the prevention of unfair, deceptive or misleading advertising and marketing practices.Promote honesty and transparency in practices and methods, such that all forms of consumer manipulation are rejected.Commit to avoid consumer deception purchasing decisions.
Respect Promote and abide by practices that focus on consumer welfareThe consumer, not the marketer, is fundamentally in charge and control, and the consumer defines the terms of the consumer-marketer relationship.
Honesty Do not support any efforts that tell others what to say or how to say it.
Responsibility Working with minors in marketing programs requires sensitivity and care, given their particular vulnerability to manipulation and deception.
Privacy Respect the privacy of consumers, and use practices that promote privacy, such as opt-in and permission standards.

The lesson here is: Don’t try to put one over on your community. You’ll get found out, and it will hurt you. It’s better to just be honest. And Be a Person.

Being a person also involves a few realizations about your community, such as how they really make decisions.

There’s a great free e-book[3] from Network for Good and Sea Change Strategies called Homer Simpson for Non-profits: The Truth About How People Really Think & What It Means for Promoting Your Cause by Katya Andresen, Alia McKee, and Mark Rovner. In it, the authors assert a bit of common sense that many folks may not know they know:

Real people make decisions like Homer Simpson, not Spock.

Now although that book is geared toward non-profits, enterprises can learn a lot from it and the Simpson/Spock dichotomy. Just as giving or supporting a cause is not influenced by cold rationality — the Spock side of us — neither are many purchasing decisions. For all kinds of decisions, we are more motivated by our gut, like Homer.

So to achieve your business’s goals, do what people do when they’re just sitting around: yack. Tell each other stories. Connect on a visceral level. And form relationships. That’s what social media is all about.

Rather than present all the rational reasons why someone should take an action such as buying your product or telling their friends, engage with them on a personal level. Get people to care:

  • About you
  • Then about your business

Rather than pursuing supporters, in the traditional media way, online you need to attract supporters by offering Content, Context, Connection, and Community.

We talk a lot about these Four C’s in just a bit, but before we do, we need to talk about who is going to do all this yacking.

Think About Your Approach to Social Media: Be A Person is the 51st in a series of excerpts from our book, Be a Person: the Social Operating Manual for Enterprises (itself part of a series for different audiences). We’re just past page 177. At this rate it’ll be a long time before we get through all 430 pages, but luckily, if you’re impatient, the book is available in paper form at and you can save $5 using Coupon Code 62YTRFCV

See the previous posts What is Social Media?, Social Sites Defined, Why Social Media? How is Social Media Relevant to Business? First Steps Toward a Social Media Strategy, and Decide What Your Business Will Do About Social Computing, pt. 1

Next up: Who Will Speak for You on Social Media?

[1] Wal-Marting Across America: and

[2] Word of Mouth Marketing Association’s Code of Ethics:

[3] Network for Good and Sea Change Strategies’ free ebook — Homer Simpson for Non-profits: The Truth About How People Really Think & What It Means for Promoting Your Cause:

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